Micron’s latest NAND modules bring the ‘perfect’ data center SSD one step closer.

Micron recently announced a new NAND design. NAND is a storage technology for solid state drives (SSD). Micron develops NAND modules in hopes of producing faster and larger SDDs. Ultimately, the SSDs end up in PCs and data centers.

The newest modules have 232 storage layers, almost 60 more than the current generation. As a result, the IO speed increases by 50 percent (2.4 GB/s). Furthermore, the modules store more data in a smaller surface area. Each millimetre houses roughly 15 gigabytes. This means that the size of a postage stamp is enough for 2 terabytes.

Gartner analyst Joe Unsworth has high expectations. Unsworth told The Register that the modules are extremely promising for data centers. Large databases run best on high-capacity, fast and low-latency storage. That’s exactly where the new modules excel.

Flipside

SSDs are better suited for databases than nearline storage, a traditional storage technology used in tape drives, among others. Because of its high latency and low speed, nearline storage rarely houses database workloads.

SSDs are more popular — and a lot costlier as well. That’s why storage manufacturers research ways to lower the price of SSDs. Breakthroughs are rare. Micron’s new modules don’t change a thing. Nearline storage remains much, much cheaper.

According to Unsworth, a 20TB nearline drive will set you back about 1 cent per gigabyte. Micron’s new modules are expected to cost between 5 to 7 cents per gigabyte.

DRAM remains king

Costs aren’t the only issue, Unsworth states. While SSD’s may be faster than nearline storage, DRAM is faster than SSD’s. DRAM and processors exchange data with a memory controller. The memory controller is integrated into the processor. SSDs have no way of directly contacting the processor. SSDs first connect to a motherboard through SATA or PCIe, and then reach the processor. The diversion causes delays.

Micron’s new modules are fast, but not fast enough to take on DRAM. Furthermore, Micron is months — if not years — away from incorporating the modules into data center SSDs.

The modules are expected to appear in Micron’s Crucial desktop and laptop SSD’s within 2022. Data center SSDs are harder to get to market. The product needs an OEM certification. Unsworth doesn’t expect the modules to appear in data center SSDs until the second half of 2023.